National Student Financial Aid Scheme

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is a South African government student financial aid scheme which provides financial aid to undergraduate students to help pay for the cost of their tertiary education after finishing high school.[3] It is funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training.[4][5] The program also manages bursaries such as the Funza Lushaka Teacher Bursary (for students pursuing a teaching qualification), DHET Disability Bursary and other bursaries from the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).[6][7]

National Student Financial Aid Scheme, South Africa
National Student Financial Aid Scheme logo.png
Scheme overview
Formed1996 (1996)
Preceding Scheme
  • Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa
JurisdictionGovernment of South Africa
HeadquartersWynberg, Cape Town, South Africa
Annual budgetZAR46 billion {2.5 billion usd} (2022)[2][1]
Minister responsible
Deputy Minister responsible
Scheme executives
Parent departmentDepartment of Higher Education and Training
Key documents
  • NSFAS Act 1999
  • Higher Education Act 1991


The National Student Financial Aid Scheme was established in 1996, replacing the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa (TEFSA) in 1999.[8] The TEFSA program was a non-profit company which managed and administered NSFAS since its establishment until 2000. In 1999, TEFSA was converted into a statutory body called NSFAS.[9] The scheme is supported by over R30 billion (in 2018)[2] in funding from the Department of Higher Education and Training, and local and international donations. The bursaries cover the tuition fees, accommodation, and food and travel allowances for "full time" students, and only tuition fees for "part time" students.[10]

In 2019, as of 20 November 2019, NSFAS had received 365,922 applications for financial aid in 2020, compared to the 278,738 applications it had received the year prior.[11]

In 2019, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Dr Blade Nzimande stated that the government had allocated nearly R80 billion for NSFAS over the next three years.[12]

Financial aidEdit


South Africa citizens registering for the first time at a public South African higher education institution who meet the means test may receive a bursary.[6] The means test requires that the applicant's combined household income (gross) does not exceed R350,000 per annum.[6] The bursary also covers a few post-graduate student qualifications (such as a postgraduate certificate in education).[13][14]

Loan repayment (pre-2018)Edit

Prior to the announcement by former President Jacob Zuma of free higher education for poor students in 2017, NSFAS bursaries were "loans" which needed to be paid back.[15][6] The loan repayment began once the student had found employment and was earning R80,000 or more annually.[16] If the student was unemployed, they did not have to make repayments until they were employed.[17] If the student left university or college, a case where they did not complete their qualification, the loan would still have to be repaid.[18][19] As of 2019, all accrued "loans" from NSFAS prior to 2018 must still be paid back.[20]

Free subsidised higher education (post-2018)Edit

On 16 December 2017, former President Jacob Zuma announced that "fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working class South African students" would be phased in by the South African government over a period of five years.[15]

In March 2021, the NSFAS announced that its funding was insufficient to fund first-year students. In the same month, the NSFAS's executive board faced criticism for incurring billions of rands in irregular expenditures for the last three years, including R522 million in the past year.[21]

Application processEdit

Applications for a NSFAS bursary can be made both online and in-person.[15] Applications are typically open between September and November in the year preceding the first year of higher education.[22] Online applications can be made on the NSFAS website. Applications can also be made at the Financial Aid Office (FAO) or Student Service Centre at the higher education institution the student applied at, as well as at National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) offices.[23][15][11][24]


  1. ^ a b "NSFAS 2017/18 ANNUAL REPORT" (PDF). NSFAS. 2018. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  2. ^ a b Zamayirha, Peter (29 July 2018). "Students' R30bn aid in shambles". City Press.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "NSFAS Application: How To Apply For Funding Online". Retrieved 2021-08-03.
  4. ^ NSFAS. "NSFAS". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  5. ^ "National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) - Overview". Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  6. ^ a b c d "NSFAS National Student Financial Aid Scheme – R350K Funding – All You Need to Know" (PDF). 11 January 2018. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  7. ^ "The National Student Financial Aid Scheme". Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  8. ^ "NSFAS National Student Financial Aid Scheme Annual Report 2014" (PDF). 25 August 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Introduction". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  10. ^ "NSFAS National Student Financial Aid Scheme – How to apply" (PDF). 10 January 2017. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  11. ^ a b "10 DAYS LEFT BEFORE THE CLOSING OF THE NSFAS 2020 APPLICATIONS" (PDF). NSFAS Media. 20 November 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "10 Things You Need to Know about NSFAS". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  14. ^ NSFAS. "NSFAS". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d "NSFAS Funding South Africa 2019 - 2020". Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  16. ^ "Paying Back the Loan". Western Cape Government. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  17. ^ NSFAS. "NSFAS". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  18. ^ NSFAS. "NSFAS". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  19. ^ Ursulas (19 September 2012). "NSFAS - Salary Deduction Table (R30,000 - R304,000)" (PDF). Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  20. ^ "NSFAS". Retrieved 2019-11-29. NSFAS has not received any commitment by government at this stage to write of any outstanding student debts. The free education pronouncement was clear that it will be effective starting from the 2018 academic year. As far as we are concerned, previous loans will still need to be paid back by those who benefited.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ "MPs lambast NSFAS board, executives for incurring irregular expenditures". SABC. 10 March 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ Moosa, Fatima (2019-09-18). "Everything You Need To Know About NSFAS 2020". The Daily Vox. Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  23. ^ "NSFAS Application: How To Apply For Funding Online". Retrieved 2021-08-03.
  24. ^ "NSFAS 2021".

External linksEdit